Friday, March 22, 2013

The Room by Joshua Harris

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features save for the one wall covered with small index-card files.

They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endlessly in either direction, had very different headings. As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read “Girls I Have Liked.” I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one.

And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was. This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn't match.

 A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching. A file named “Friends” was next to one marked “Friends I Have Betrayed.”

 The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird. “Books I Have Read,” “Lies I Have Told,” “Comfort I Have Given,” “Jokes I Have Laughed At.” Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: “Things I’ve Yelled at My Brothers.” Others I couldn’t laugh at: “Things I Have Done in My Anger,” “Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath at My Parents.” I never ceased to be surprised by the contents. Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped.

I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my 20 years to write each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature. When I pulled out the file marked “Songs I Have Listened To,” I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly and yet after two or three yards, I hadn't found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of music, but more by the vast amount of time I knew that file represented.

When I came to a file marked “Lustful Thoughts,” I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content. I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded.

Suddenly I felt an almost animal rage. One thought dominated my mind: “No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!” In an insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn’t matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it.

Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh. And then I saw it. The title bore “People I Have Shared the Gospel With.” The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand.

 And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that they hurt started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key.

But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him. No, please not Him. Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus.

I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn’t bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one?

Finally He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn’t anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn’t say a word. He just cried with me.

Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card.

“No!” I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was “No, no,” as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn't be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood.

He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, “It is finished.”

I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on its door. There were still cards to be written.

  By Joshua Harris

Monday, March 18, 2013

Level up!

In an RPG (role-playing game), you'd have to undergo quests and battle monsters in order to level up. I love a good RPG, because there's the thrill of story, strategy,  and transformation. As you go through level after level, the "big boss" you have to battle becomes a bit meaner or a bit wiser.  In any case, there's that sense of accomplishment when you see a monster disappear and you see your strength, stamina, and other skills fill up.  Sometimes, you're even given a new ability or a new weapon.

I've often seen my life as one big RPG.  When I reflect on the past victories and the challenges I've encountered, there's that fulfillment knowing that I've somewhat "leveled-up" and gained something from the quests and battles.  The past days though, I felt that my life has been stagnant, as if someone had pressed the pause button on the game console. I fell into self-pity, blaming even the people I love the most for what was happening in my life. It was hard for me to write about this, because I see myself as a strong Christian woman and here I was falling apart and being emotional.  Where was my joy in Christ?

I shared this with my bestfriend Tiffany and after listening to me, she prayed for me. I can't forget what she said, which went roughly like this: "Lord, I pray for this beautiful woman who doesn't realize her worth in you."

I immediately started crying when I heard her words, because they were true. I had forgotten my worth in Christ, that He himself purchased me with His precious blood, that I was part of a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. What was the daughter of a King doing?  Self-pitying and neglecting her inheritance!  Here was someone I had shared the gospel to, reminding me about what I had shared to her just months ago.

It was a humbling experience.  I remember reading that it is not the length of our walk with Christ that matters, but the depth of our walk with Him. And for the past days, I had fallen out of step with God. The experience was a wake-up call.  I had to make a decision once and for all. Was I going to allow myself to stagnate or was I going to level up?  I had been in this exact same situation before, crying because I felt that God was not giving me what I wanted.  Now, I am put in the same spot as if I hadn't learned my lesson.  Actually, I was being put in the same spot to make me realize that I still hadn't learned my lesson.

In an RPG, you die and you resurrect in the same spot...or you go back to the start.  You DON'T level up if you don't face the monster and defeat it. I had forgotten an important fact. The monsters in my life had been defeated even before, when Jesus died for me on the cross. What was required for me right now was to show up for battle and to obey, in full faith that  I will be victorious.  I wasn't a baby Christian anymore.  I couldn't run to my disciplers all the time, asking for prayers and crying whenever I faced challenges of any kind.  I know they would pray for me and help me, but I myself also had to learn how to stand on God's promises.

I have loved you with an everlasting love.

My lover is mine and I am His.

I will never leave you nor forsake you.

I will be with you.

I am with you always, to the end of the age.

It is finished.

If I feel defeated, it is not God's fault. He had already given me victory. I just chose to feel defeat.  I didn't want to level up and step out in faith.  I told Jesus that there was nothing more in this world that I wanted but be His disciple.  He answered me, come and follow me. But I was just like the rich young man who couldn't leave his worldly riches behind. Sure Jesus, I'll follow you, but can I bring this bag with me, just in case?  Well Gaby, this journey doesn't require anything but you and me. Are you still willing to follow?

I wanted to stay where I was, because I was scared of losing whatever I had. I forgot that what God has in store for me was greater than what I could ever imagine. I didn't want to believe because I didn't SEE the promise. Instead of trusting in the character of God -- that He is faithful and good -- I chose to put things under my control.

Early this year, I had prayed for many things. Two of these were,
1) a deeper relationship with God
2) Godly character -- more self-control, patience, and gentleness

When you ask God for things like this, be ready. He will test you through the fire, and He will give you exactly what you need. When I told my sister about my struggle, she told me,  and saya nga nyan eh! (that's something to be happy about!). She even sounded envious!  I thought she was crazy.  I wanted to shout, God take this cup away from me!  Until she explained that this was going to build my character.  I was surprised to hear this from her. Just like Tiffany, my sister is a younger Christian than I am.  Again, I was reminded about why the Christians around me were living victorious lives. It wasn't about who has been Christian the longest. It was because these people chose to level up. They chose to be joyful in the midst of trial, because they knew that their suffering would produce a greater faith, a better character, a deeper walk with God. They chose to level up, because they were compelled by the love of Christ on the cross. They were confident that He was going to be with them every step of the way. Our pastors always say that God doesn't guarantee His children a storm-free life. He even promises us that we will face trials and persecutions! But what he does guarantee is a storm-proof life where He will be with us.  As a book I am reading says:  Often, you'd have to choose between comfort or Christlikeness. Which one do you want?

I want to be Christlike. I don't want to stay where I am, but first I have to obey. I have to be faithful in the little things, so I can be entrusted with the bigger things.  Last year, God told me to meet him in the mountaintop just like Moses in Exodus. I thought I had reached the peak and had become content. I realize now that to think this way shows a lack of understanding about God's character. There is still so much more to know about God. You won't run out! Each day is supposed to bring a fresh revelation, a new word from Him. If I wasn't hearing from God everyday, then I have to ask myself if I'm spending enough time with Him so I could hear from Him.  Well, it seems like for the past days, all I had been hearing was myself.

I am weak.  But the bible says, When I am weak, I am strong.  It is in my weakness that God's strength will be revealed.  He will do amazing things in my life, and He will be glorified.  I have to leave behind my past victories and defeats and make room for the new things that God will be bringing into my life. I can see growing pains in my future, and I have to admit that when I focus on the "pains" part, I am shaky inside (please pray for me!).  But if it means that the prize is being closer to Jesus, then this is something I choose to go through. I pray to God that He will keep me brave, determined, and joyful all throughout.
 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.  Deuteronomy 31:8